Foreign peacekeepers sent to East Timor

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Foreign peacekeepers sent to East Timor

Foreign peacekeepers sent to East Timor
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International peacekeepers are preparing to head for East Timor as the country faces further violence between disgruntled former soldiers and the military.

Former colonial power Portugal is sending security forces, as are Australia and New Zealand.

The East Timorese government is struggling to contain the uprising – and asked for help.

Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta said:
“The assistance that we require is a robust police unit to help our police forces, contain the situation, but also a small but credible defense force presence”.

East Timor is the world’s youngest country. It was officially recognised as an independent state in 2002.

It is desperately poor, and much of the infrastructure was destroyed in a bloody campaign by pro-Indonesian militia in 1999 following the independence vote.

This latest violence began last month when 600 soldiers sacked from the army after going on strike staged a demonstration.

The situation has now become so tense that Australia and the US have begun evacuating non-essential personnel.

The disgruntled soldiers are threatening a guerrilla campaign if they are not given their jobs back.

The East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao has cancelled an official visit to China next week in a bid to calm the population.

Officials in Dili say the situation is under control for the moment.

An earlier gunbattle between the sacked soldiers and government forces left one person dead and six others wounded.